BY CAITLYN PACE
Copyright is held by the author.
THE MACHINES caused the hollow ringing in the Giant’s ears. He scrunched up his face and blew at the air. Perhaps it was nothing more than a single person, who would fall to the ground by his breath and scramble away, he thought to himself.
But the ringing only grew louder, so the Giant stood up from the mountain that so many people had mistaken him as being a part of, stretched out his limbs, and gave a yawn that caused the surrounding birds to fly away from the trees.
When he blinked his sleepy eyes open, he saw that, across from him, there were groups of people who moved about like leaves in the wind. The grey claws they controlled grabbed onto the top of the mountain, revealing layers of coal underneath. The dirt fell down the side of the mountain, turning the clear blue lake below into a murky brown.
“That’s not good,” the Giant said out loud to himself. “I need to clean the river.”
And so, he sat down and thought long and hard about how he was going to clean the lake. The only idea he could come up with was to drain the lake, but he did not know how he would fill it back up.
When he stood and was about to give up, he saw the Granny Witch climb up the mountain next to him and begin to collect mint.
“Granny Witch,” he said, and she looked up at him. “I must clean the river over there. Do you have a potion that can help me?”
“Well, I have a tea that I give to the coal miners with black lung. It doesn’t cure anything, but it helps with the pain, and maybe it will help to clear the water.”
“Where is the tea?”
“In my pouch right here,” she said and pointed to her side. She untied the pouch and placed it into the giant’s open hand.
“Thank you,” the giant said. The Granny Witch nodded at him.
The Giant ran down the mountain, his footsteps causing piles of dirt to jump up from the ground and brush against his knees.
When he reached the lake, he opened the pouch. It ripped easily between his fingers, and he dumped the black and green specks into the lake.
He waited and waited and waited, but the water remained as clear as mud.
As he was waiting, an ugly, horrendous smell went past his face. He held his hand against his nose and turned to see where the smell was coming from. That was when he saw the waves lap across piles of dead fish on the shore.
“That’s not good,” The Giant said out loud to himself. “I need a new potion to clean the water with.”
He ran up the mountain, panting, but the Granny Witch and the mint she had been collecting were nowhere to be seen.
The Giant sat down and thought about how he could clean the lake. When he couldn’t come up with any solutions and the machines stopped making noise and the sun descended behind the mountains, he fell asleep.
The giant woke up to the sounds of the machines drilling into his ears. He lifted his head, and, when he opened his eyes, he saw the Granny Witch collecting chamomile on the mountain next to him.
“Granny Witch,” he said, and she looked up at him. “Your potion didn’t work yesterday; the lake is still dirty. Do you have another potion that I could use?”
“Well, I have a solution I use to clean off the soot that regular old water and a dish rag can’t get off itself. It might clean the water for you.”
“Where is the solution?”
“In my pouch, here,” she said and pointed to her hip. She untied the pouch and dropped it into the giant’s open palm.
With a declaration of gratitude to the Granny Witch, the Giant ran down the mountain to the valley where the lake was. When he got there, all he could hear was people coughing and crying.
“It has to be the water; it tastes funny,” he heard a person walking by say.
“This isn’t good,” the Giant said out loud to no one in particular. “I need to fix this.”
He ran over to the lake, opened the pouch, and dropped the gravelly contents inside. He waited for the lake to turn its crystal blue, but the water remained as grey as a thunderstorm cloud.
When the Giant went back to the mountain that the Granny Witch was on, she was no longer there.
He sat down, exasperated, and thought long and hard about how he would clean the lake. When he couldn’t come up with a solution and the machines stopped and the sun set, he fell asleep.
The giant woke up to something hitting his head. He opened his eyes just as a raindrop splat onto his forehead and traveled down his nose.
The Giant stood up and saw that the machines sat without any people on them. Next to him, the Granny Witch was lying down.
“Granny Witch,” he called out, but there was only a faint groan in response.
“I am sick,” her voice was soft, but it was carried by the wind. “It was the water. I am sure of it. Take me home, please.”
The Giant scooped the Granny Witch into his palm and carried her down the mountain, where her cottage was. He laid her beside of it, and she was able to crawl onto the porch.
The rain droplets soaked the Giant’s hair down his head, so he had to move his hair behind his ears to stare up at the sky. “I can fill the lake back up,” he remarked.
The giant ran over to the top of the mountain where the coal was exposed. With a closed fist, he smashed all the machines, one by one, until they were nothing more than piles of the same gravelly substance that the Granny Witch had given him earlier.
Then, the giant ran over to the lake and crouched down on its shore. He pressed his lips against the water and began to drink.
As he drank, the clean rain poured into the valley like it was being poured from a bucket, and it filled the lake back up.
Dazed, the Giant stumbled back to his mountain. He was able to see the moon reflected on the lake before he closed his eyes and fell into an eternal sleep.
Caitlyn Pace is a horror and dark fiction writer, and she occasionally dabbles in other genres. She resides in West Virginia, where she is often inspired by the folklore and ghost stories surrounding her state and the Appalachian region. Keep updated with her through her Twitter @CaitlynPace02, Instagram: @caitlyn_pace02, or TikTok: @caitlyn_pace.